Article #407 How Can Project Owners Ensure Managing Incoming Correspondence from Other Entities on Capital Construction Projects

The management of capital construction projects have hundreds of predefined business processes like those for the request for information, meeting minutes, submittals, work inspection requests, non-compliance reports, safety incidents, budgets, budget adjustments, commitments, change orders, progress invoices, funding authorizations, confirmation of verbal instructions among many others. Each one of those processes has predefined templates to ensure that all needed data ensure the successful management of those processes. Nevertheless, one of the processes that usually do not have a predefined template, if the process of Incoming Correspondence.

The Incoming Correspondence is the process where the project owner needs to receive and respond to incoming formal correspondence from entities involved in delivering the capital construction project. Those include design consultants, supervision consultants, contractors, suppliers, banks, law firms, facilities end users, permitting authorities among others. The first requirement in managing incoming correspondence is for the document controller from the project owner side to ensure that the details of every incoming correspondence are captured and logged. The second requirement is for the project manager to be made aware of the details of the incoming correspondence as soon as it is received. The third requirement is for the project manager is to review the correspondence to decide whether he/she should be the one to respond to the incoming correspondence, what input might be needed from his/her project team, assign one of his/her team members to prepare the response or escalate the correspondence to other members of the project owner entity to respond to the incoming correspondence. Nevertheless, the project manager will be always the final approver of the response action needed on the incoming correspondence.

Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb a process will be created to ensure the successful management of Incoming Correspondence. PMWeb default Correspondence module will be used to manage this process which as explained above will be initiated by the project owner’s Document Controller. The default Correspondence form comes ready with most fields needed to capture the details of the incoming correspondence regardless of the entity who has sent it. The default form allows capturing the details of the project name, letter date, from whom it was received, to whom it was sent, subject, correspondence reference number, WBS level, and Specification Section it relates to, Priority among others. Additional fields can be also added for correspondence type being incoming or outgoing if a reply is required and by which date if the letter could result in a variation order or a claim, response date, Response letter reference number among other details that the project manager believes that they need to be captured by the document controller for incoming correspondence.

The document controller should also attach an electronic PDF file copy of the correspondence and all associated documents which could be either scanned or sent as a file by the entity submitting the correspondence. All those electronic documents will be uploaded and stored in the PMWeb document management repository under the folder titled “Incoming Correspondence”. This folder will have subfolders by the name of each entity that correspondence could be received from. The attached documents that are in either PDF or Picture File format, will appear on the PMWeb correspondence input form.

In addition to those documents, the project manager and other team members might decide that other relevant documents need also to be attached to the form. Further, the project manager and team members might decide to link other relevant PMWeb records and imported MS Outlook emails to the form.

For each incoming correspondence, PMWeb allows associating the relevant FIDIC contract agreement or any other contract agreement subclauses, specification sections among others to the correspondence. All those FIDIC subclauses, specification sections among others will be added to the PMWeb clauses module. This will allow the document controller or any project team member to drag and drop those subclauses and sections on the correspondence form. This functionality will enable the incoming correspondence review to have a better understanding of the response to be taken.

The “Correspondence” form will have a simple workflow to ensure that the document controller submits the form to the project manager. Of course, the workflow can have more steps and even conditions for selecting different workflows that will be associated with the data field values captured in the correspondence input form.

Similar to other workflows, the workflow will map the submit, review, and approval tasks along with the responsible individual for performing the task, time allotted to complete the task and available actions to be taken. Nevertheless, what is different in the Incoming Correspondence workflow is that the Review and Approve tasks will be both assigned to the project manager.

For the workflow review task, the Project Manager might seek the input of other project team members by sending an invitation to the selected team members to provide their feedback on the shared record. The invitation will include the options to either permit or not permit those team members to edit the record, edit the notes, and/or edit the attachment. There is also another option for the task reviewer where he or she can delegate the task to other team members for review. Nevertheless, the final approval action of what response or action is needed on the incoming correspondence should be only taken by the project manager. In other words, regardless of who prepares the response on the incoming correspondence, the project manager will be accountable for the response.

If the project manager finds it necessary to seek feedback from other individuals like the company lawyer, financial controller, or others who have not authorized users of PMWeb, and therefore, the workflow functionality will not be available to them, the PMWeb notification option will be used. This option will allow the project manager to email the correspondence and attached documents to those individuals. If those individuals were defined as PMWeb contacts, then their emails will be automatically selected when there their names are selected in the “To”, “CC” or “BCC” fields. For those individuals who are not defined as contacts, their emails will be manually added in the field “Manual CC”. All sent notifications will be logged on the “Correspondence” form notification tab.

The Correspondence Log, which can be selected to be for incoming, outgoing, or both provides a real-time register of all correspondence received from and sent to all entities. The log will list the details of this correspondence along with their status. The form will also include graphical visuals to summarize the information captured in those communications.

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About the Authorfounder

Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM is a Senior Project Management Consultant with 40-year service record providing project management, project controls services, and project management information systems to over 200 projects with a total value over the US $100 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment, Hospitality, and Shopping Malls, Oil and Gas Plants and Refineries, Telecommunication, and Information Technology projects. He is thoroughly experienced in complete project management including project management control systems, computerized project control software, claims analysis/prevention, risk analysis/management (contingency planning), design, supervision, training, and business development.

Bassam is a frequent speaker on topics relating to Project Management, Strategic Project Management, and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 40 years, he has lectured at more than 350 events and courses at different locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and South America. He has written more than 300 articles on project management and project management information systems that were featured in international and regional magazines and newspapers. He is a co-founder of the Project Management Institute- Arabian Gulf Chapter (PMI-AGC) and has served on its board of directors for more than 6 years. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), a certified Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP), and Earned Value Professional (EVP) from the American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE) and Green Project Management (GPM).

Bassam holds a Masters in Engineering Administration (Construction Management) with Faculty Commendation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA, Bachelor in Civil Engineering – Kuwait University, Kuwait and has attended many executive management programs at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA, and London Business School, London, UK.


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